Scientists for Tomorrow Summer Program at James Hedges Elementary School

Scientists for Tomorrow  in collaboration with After School Matters, began their 6 week  summer programming at James Hedges Elementary School, located in the Back of Yards neighborhood. Thirteen eighth grade girls are part of this special summer session, where they will  learn about the earth, human physiology, plants structure, growth and function, and the nature of the interaction between humans and plants.

This Plants and People module developed by Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe and Marcelo Caplan, professors from Columbia College Department of Science and Mathematics, was extended for participants to create four garden beds outside the school.

The goal of the program, is to develop positive attitudes toward STEM, expose the students to STEM field related opportunities, and to build the understanding of the need and equilibrium between plants and people for the good of society.

In extension to building up to the culmination of their final project– participants will be building four raised garden beds for their school. They have conducted numerous experiments with plants, such as testing for the best soil or water for plants, constructed and build greenhouses, bird houses, and planted their own seeds to put in the beds.

To further their knowledge of plants and urban gardening, the young scientists visited the Garfield Park Conservatory for a day, where they learned that “the foundation for life is soil.”  Students immersed themselves in the process of composting, learned about the different types of soil, and fine-tuned their planting skills. Students focused on the specifics of urban gardening as they toured the raised beds and learned about important considerations when gardening in the city.

These young ladies are continuing to work hard and are about to begin the construction of the raised beds. They will be presenting their efforts and achievements at the Junior Research Scientists Symposium on August 1. The inauguration event for their gardens is tentatively scheduled for August 15.

For more information you can contact Marcelo Caplan at

By: Eliza Scalon, Scientists for Tomorrow Instructor at Hedges Elementary.